Chemistry is a self published comic by writer/artist Steve Peters (here is the website for his company, Awakening Comics) that he put out a couple of years ago that I’ve been meaning to review since I got it last year (I’m trying to catch up on some reviews I’ve been meaning to do). It begins as an art experiment and eventually becomes a deep examination on the idea of chemistry between two people in a relationship. It’s a good work.
The concept of the book (as Peters explains in the inside front cover) was that, at a time in his life when he wasn’t really doing much drawing, he decided to do one panel a day, and just see if the story went somewhere (he would actually work the date into the panel somewhere tiny, which is a clever enough idea).
Eventually, the story turned into an examination of his relationship with his current girlfriend, but when that relationship ended, Peters instead decided to turn the book into an examination of their relationship from the end of the relationship to the beginning.
That is where the book really shines, so it is a bit unfortunate that what Peters puts up on his site for samples is the early stuff, where he was almost formless…
Don’t get me wrong, this stuff isn’t that bad, and it shows you what kind of artist he is (a pretty good one), and I really do like the way that he goes from a metaphysical battle to the realization that these demons are actually his inner demons fighting within his mind/heart/soul/what have you. That was a neat idea, but it still meant we had a bunch of pages of demon-y stuff when Peters’ strongest stuff is when he concentrates on the real world.
Once he does so, Peters presents an intriguing tale of he and his girlfriend and their break-up, their almost broken up time, their “savor it” period, their first kiss their initial getting together, their courtship, as it were, and their initial connection.
Peters does not shy away from portraying himself in a negative light at times, and it is quite telling at one point in the book where he notes that when he asks a girl out, he figures if she turns him down, at least he’ll have something to tell in his comic. I love that he’s that honest about that sort of approach on life.
The book is extremely introspective, and at times, it can get more than a little wordy (he turns the story of their courtship through two pages of basically all text – it really does not work well), and there is certainly some times when his art could be a bit sharper (his depictions of Violet, the girlfriend in question, in particular seem to oddly lack detail, which jumps out when he depicts himself extremely detailed).
While I thought the early demon appearances were a bit on the overdone side, I enjoyed the middle of the book, where he better examines the idea of talking with your inner demon. It is a clever way of getting across some introspective discussion that could otherwise come off as rather boring.
In any event, the comic as a whole is a good one, as the later work with the relationship is so strong that it makes up for the overall unevenness of the book, and in the end, it is an interesting, worthy narrative.
Generally Recommended (I think I’m going to use generally instead of slightly from now on, as I think generally conveys the tone I want to get across, which is that I think the book is recommendable, but it is a close call – slightly seems to carry a bit more of a negative connotation).